After the voters declined to retain her in the 2014 general election, Judge Sheri Raphaelson of the First Judicial District Court took the position that she should not have been subjected to a retention election in the first place.
Judge Raphaelson took the bench in 2009 after being nominated to fill the seat vacated by now-Court of Appeals Judge Timothy Garcia. Judge Garcia’s term began in 2009 and would have expired at the end of 2014 had he remained on the district court.
The New Mexico Constitution provides that all appointed judges serve until the next general election, which is a partisan election. Thus, in 2010, Judge Raphaelson was on the ballot and survived a partisan election.
In Judge Raphaelson’s view, she should not have been up for retention until the 2016 election, because Article VI, Section 33 of the New Mexico Constitution provides that “each district judge shall be subject to retention or rejection in like manner at the general election every sixth year.”
Towards the end of last year, the New Mexico Supreme Court disagreed with her and removed her from office, but today the Court issued its opinion in State ex rel. King v. Raphaelson to explain its reasoning.
According to Justice Bosson’s opinion, Article VI, Section 33 must be read in conjunction with Article VI, Section 35, which provides that “Any person appointed [to a judgeship] shall serve until the next general election. That person’s successor shall be chosen at such election and shall hold the office until the expiration of the original term.” (emphasis added).
The “original term” was Judge Garcia’s, so this meant that Judge Raphaelson was properly on the ballot in 2014. Moreover, the longstanding practice in New Mexico was contrary to Judge Raphaelson’s interpretation.